Tuesday, October 19th, 2010
Blonde Redhead at The Phoenix in Toronto
Frank YangI loved Blonde Redhead’s 23. Lots of people did. All churning guitars, delicate vocals and big, danceable rhythms, it was like a lost, great Creation Records album and ably scratched an itch that few had been able to reach in years and years. So I understand where people are coming from in not feeling this year’s follow-up, Penny Sparkle, and its synths-first dedication to atmosphere. And the complaints that the record sort of wandered aimlessly and lacked the drive and direction of its predecessor? Truth there as well. But I find that to be one of the album’s strengths, rather than a weakness – if you were going to go for an aimless wander, which I certainly advocate as an activity now and again, I can think of worse soundtracks than Penny Sparkle and its gauzy charms. Point being, it is its own thing and on the terms that it was intended, it’s a pretty good record.
Either way, “aimless” was not going to be a word to describe their performance at The Phoenix on Sunday night. Even before they took the stage, it was clear they were here on business. Their elaborate set dressings included smoke machines, numerous spotlights, decorative overhead reflector umbrellas and numerous incandescent light bulbs with flickering filaments similar in shape to their album artwork – it all looked quite fabulous, though it was a nightmare to shoot in. When they finally did come out to play – 25 minutes later than scheduled – it was with plenty of direction, and that direction was clearly in your face with the bass. Over an hour-long set that went back and forth between 23 and Penny Sparkle like the two sides of the same coin they really are, the trio – occasionally a quartet with the help of a second keyboardist – followed a deep, continuous groove that alternately showcased Kazu Makino’s keening vocals and sinewy dance moves, Amedeo Pace’s otherworldy guitarwork, twin Simone Pace’s acoustic and electronic drum mastery or all at once.
As you’d expect, the Penny Sparkle material was much heavier live, thanks in no small part to the massive amounts of low end being pumped into the decently-filled Phoenix. It was actually excessive and to the sound’s detriment at a few points, but you had to be impressed at the amount of bass a band without a bassist produced. The band was very much in the zone and while that meant that chit-chat was off the agenda – besides some quick hellos and thanks, there was no audience interaction – the musical payoff was worth it. Long-time fans were rewarded with the encore, which I can only assume delved further back into their catalog because a) I didn’t recognize the selections and b) they were much more unhinged than the familiar, recent stuff and certainly sounded like I imagine Blonde Redhead did in their noisier days, before bringing things back to the present for a gentle denouement. And then a final wave and goodbye.
Chart also has a review of the show.
Photos: Blonde Redhead @ The Phoenix – October 17, 2010
MP3: Blonde Redhead – “Here Sometimes”
MP3: Blonde Redhead – “23”
MP3: Blonde Redhead – “Not Getting There”
MP3: Blonde Redhead – “Misery Is A Butterfly”
MP3: Blonde Redhead – “In Particular”
MP3: Blonde Redhead – “A Cure”
MP3: Blonde Redhead – “Missile”
MP3: Blonde Redhead – “Distilled”
Video: Blonde Redhead – “My Impure Hair”
Video: Blonde Redhead – “Top Ranking”
Video: Blonde Redhead – “The Dress”
Video: Blonde Redhead – “Silently”
Video: Blonde Redhead – “23”
Video: Blonde Redhead – “Melody”
Video: Blonde Redhead – “Equus”
MySpace: Blonde Redhead
Anyone who’s wanted to see Chicago punks Smith Westerns but not trek to (or pay for) the Sound Academy to see them support Florence & The Machine on November 3, take heart – following their opening set they’ll head across town to Parts & Labour the headline their own sweaty show – admission $6 at the door.
The title of R.E.M.’s next album has been revealed – Collapse Into Now will be out early next year.
Stream: Warpaint / The Fool
The Los Angeles Times examines the concept of middle-aged rock bands using Superchunk and The Vaselines as case studies; both are coming to town soon(ish) – The Vaselines at The Horseshoe on October 30 and Superchunk at The Sound Academy on December 9, supporting Broken Social Scene. Clash also talks to the Scottish duo about the dangers of nostalgia.
Israel’s Monotonix are better known for their anarchic live shows than anything they’ve ever committed to tape, so even though their new album Not Yet isn’t coming out until January 25 of next year, they’re staging a two-legged North American tour this Fall that will test the structural integrity of Sneaky Dee’s on December 11. I doubt many will be complaining that they don’t know the words to the new material, but one sample of the new record can be had below.